Butterflied Chicken with Lemon and Basil

posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011

No matter how much I try to improvise or be creative, I always go back to whole chickens for an easy family dinner. In my life the definition of easy is completely correlated to how much prep time a meal takes. Making a whole chicken involves little prep time. It takes a while to bake but I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about how much actual time I physically have to be in the kitchen, because the more time I am inside the kitchen the more time baby Maria is outside of the kitchen trying to open up the baby gate that separates her from the pot of boiling water on the stove, or the chicken that's inside the hot oven.

One of these days, if I give her enough time, that baby gate will swing open and Maria will demand total domination of the kitchen.

So I have to work fast.

Lately I've been using a lot of recipes from the new cook book Deliciously Organic by Carrie Vitt. I'm surprised by how little prep time her recipes involve. Carrie is a mom, so I guess that explains some (or all) of why that is. I met Carrie at Food Blogger Camp back in January and I liked her immediately. Even though she's a very strong advocate and a real life example of the benefits of using organic and unprocessed ingredients in her cooking, she is not preachy at all. At least not in the sense where you feel inadequate if you're not buying organic everything.

Organic everything is expensive, and Carrie understands that. Her philosophy is that every little bit helps. That's what I do, I buy what I can. Chicken, for example, I only buy organic. It's an expense I'm willing to fork out for my own mental sanity. I hate thinking about excessive hormones in meat. Yuck!

A couple weeks ago I made a variation of Carrie's butterflied chicken.
Mine had a lemony-basil kick to it.

The lemons were a gift from a very sweet Kimmie, who packaged up a box full of lemons from her friend's lemon tree and sent them my way to enjoy.

If you rub lemon over the chicken it seals the juices in. You will get meat that just falls off the bone.

Butterflied chickens cook faster than whole chickens. A whole chicken usually takes 1 1/2 hours to bake. A butterflied chicken takes half that time. To butterfly a chicken all you need to do is cut out the backbone of the whole chicken and open it up like a butterfly. Carrie gives a detailed tutorial with pictures on how to do that in her post How to Butterfly a Chicken. You should check it out, it's a cool post.

In addition to the lemon I also like to put a handfull of fresh basil leaves under the chicken to infuse some basil flavor into the meat.

Then I give my chicken a good all over rub with seasoned salt and butter. And here is where the temptation to make a dirty joke about rubbing butter on meat is almost killing me. But I won't. I'll give you my butterflied chicken recipe instead. We're keeping this family friendly.

Butterflied Chicken with Lemon and Basil
(printable version)

1 medium sized chicken (5-6 pound) butterflied
1 lemon
6 fresh basil leaves
1 large onion cut in into wedges
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 450* and adjust oven rack to medium postion
  2. Put your butterflied chicken inside a large cast iron skillet or a medium sized roasting pan.
  3. Cut the lemons in half and rub the lemon generously all over the skin while squeezing out the lemon juice over the chicken
  4. Place the basil leaves and onions under the chicken
  5. Rub salt and pepper over the chicken followed by butter
  6. Roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees half way through
  7. Test your chicken to see if it's done by inserting a thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. When the thermometer reaches 160* remove the chicken from the oven.
  8. Before serving let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes to cool and allow the juices to penetrate more into the meat.
  9. You will get a nice crispy skin on the outside and very tender and most meat in the inside

If butterflying a chicken gives you the jitters here is a recipe for roast whole chicken instead. But if it doesn't here are some more butterflied chicken recipes from fellow food bloggers

Lebanese Butterflied Chicken from Dirty Kitchen Secrets
Butterflied Grilled Chicken from Big, Bold, Beautiful Food
Broiled Butterflied Chicken from Beantown Baker


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